Two interesting letters published recently in the Georgian, one by Mr. Byrnes and a responding one by Mr. Alexander, both with valid points, both well written by two fine gentlemen.
Maybe my response may be a little different as most of you already know. I have always been in favor of protecting our environment. I have seen first hand the mess that the Americans left behind. I also know a little about the land that was expropriated from our people. You see that my great grandfather, Frank Russell, owned approximately 55 acres (maybe more) land that (today without it's polluted condition) would be quite valuable.
Land that once was good farm land, today a chemical graveyard of old tanks, pipes, etc., etc. that no one has really come forward to let the public know what is really there. You know what scares me the most is sites on our old base being excavated and used for backfill around our towns. We have lots of places for landfill pits without using this garbage. Anything that comes off that base is questionable to me and it also should be to others.
I had a few threats made against me last year when I was going around asking questions on environmental issues. This only made me more concerned. Today I am on my own, studying environmental law.
As an Aboriginal environmentalist, I believe that maybe some people just don't understand that we have to look at these issues that involve our environment more carefully. (Leave something for our children to enjoy.)
Yes! Mr. Byrnes, there is nothing wrong celebrating. I am sure when the Americans were here they had no real knowledge of what chemicals they left behind or any kind of garbage that today has come back to haunt us.
Or for that matter our government, neglecting the Aboriginal people, expropriating their land. I am sure land that they worked hard on that they had to leave behind. But this wasn't an uncommon treatment by both levels of government towards the Aboriginal people. Yes! the Aboriginal people of Bay St. George who were once forgotten, people never got to be recognized by our government. People who should today be proud of who they are, people who paved the way for European settlers, people who stayed silent and allowed their culture to die, have today every right to regain their lost or stolen identity. They are the people that deserve also to be celebrated. A lot of our people have died not knowing their culture, for that matter also their full identity. What a shame.
As published in The Georgian, January 15-21, 2002
In the Thursday, March 28, issue of The Western Star, the headline "Governments urged to recognize treaty rights of Newfoundland Mi'kmaq", caught my attention.
Mi'kmaq chiefs across the Maritimes urged governments to extend treaty rights to Newfoundland's Mi'kmaq.
Mi'kmaq Grand Chief Ben Shylliboy, asked government to recognize 800 to 1,000 Mi'kmaq who live on the Conne River reserve. For Shylliboy not to include the thousands of non-status Mi'kmaq people who live in other parts of this province was to me disrespectful to his off-reserve brothers and sisters.
The treaty of 1760-61 was for all the Mi'kmaq people. Not just for those today, who live on reserves. All Mi'kmaq people should be treated equal.
The non-status people have been denied our rightful identity by government, and now by the looks of things, by some of our own people. A wrong that seriously needs to be corrected.
As I search deeper into our past I see what has happened to the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland was not only unconstitutional, but in 1977 became a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
And in 1985 became a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The non-status Mi'kmaq people have been denied their constitutional right for too long.
I think it's time for governments and status chiefs to give back to our people a right that has been taken.
The non-status people here, now thousands in numbers, deserve nothing less.
As Appeared in the Wester Star, April 8, 2002
Our people, searching through old records, to see if they could find A little bit of information about their aboriginal family line
Finding old pictures of loved ones of long ago, Memories of yesterday, their hearts become aglow
Secrets of their past, kept hidden in a drawer Changing of their names, that has caused them so much sorrow
Not knowing their culture, or their way of life
that was left behind 'cause they were never told about their aboriginal Family line.
The spirits of our elders are with us strong today As we search to regain our culture and our name of yesterday.
By Frank Russell
Letters to the editor
(The Georgian, Feb 19-25/02)
After reading your Feb. 5 issue of the Georgian, I thought that I might respond to your news release that Mr. Bert Alexander is going to be writing a column in your newspaper mostly on Aboriginal issues. This I applaud and I certainly enjoyed his first column.Personally, I think that this is going to be not only good for the people of this area, to be informed on Aboriginal issues, but you could see a rise in sales of your newspaper. This year there were anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 people who claimed Mikmaq on their census on in Central and on the West and South coasts of the province. And as far as I am concerned there were many who still kept their identity hidden and I have no problem with that. This is entirely their own choice. No malice towards anyone or their culture. Our people weren't even allowed to vote until sometime in the 1960s. I can see today why a lot of our people stayed hidden. But now we have to focus on the future. Your newspaper will be a strong link in helping the people of this area have more understanding, of what the native person is all about. We have lived side by side with non-natives-loved each other like brothers for too long to change. Just because we are becoming strong in numbers our relationship will not in any way change our kindness towards each other. We are Mikmaq people meaning my kind. Friend. And we plan to stay that way. Last years Sept. 11, terrorist attack on the US has for me, opened my eyes to how fragile our lives can really be. It has also caused all kinds of mixed emotion. The Aboriginal people of Canada have been left on the back burner for too long, struggling to regain their culture. Those of us here in this province are having a bigger struggle. Most of our people including myself, who did not know our true identity were victims of a lost culture and a way of life that was hidden. Tobin wanted to fast track immigrants in this province to replace the numbers lost through outmigration. He didn't stand his ground and do something for the people who are here, so they wouldn't have to leave to go seek jobs elsewhere. We could have one of the best tourist attractions here on the west coast. Aboriginal crafts, museums, and many more. There seem to be always something holding the movement back. But believe me, as more people are coming forward, seeking their heritage, we all stand a better chance of having our better tomorrow. Attracting people to this area everyone profits. My heart goes out to our people and when I say our people, I mean our people in my research of my culture. I was suprised to find that all the original people of this area have a strong bond that today I don't think will easily be broken. Again I thank your newspaper and staff for the kindness you have shown me over the years. If we are to have any kind of real peace and harmony in our lives we must all leam to understand each other. Casting any anger to resentments aside allowing all of us to live the life that God has intended for us. For 1 strongly believe that we will all be equal in our graves, that God will not cast any of us aside. Frank Russell Kit. pu. w. Stephenville
Copyright © 2002 Frank Russell
Several members of the Indian Head First Nations Mi'kmaq Band recently spent a morning at Stephenville Elementary School and offered a presentation on the aboriginal culture and language. Here, with a display of Mi'kmaq artifact replicas are (from left), band members Frank Russell, Tara Bennett and Robert Whalen, and students Jeffrey Spencer, Andrew Tom, Michael Kane, Ahmed Safdar and Lucien Swyers.
Star Photo by Frank Gale
As appeared in the March 12, 2002 issue of the Western Star
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